Intrastate Dynamics in the Context of Hegemonic Decline: A Case Study of China’s Arms Transfer Regime

Zhifan Luo


The decline of a hegemon can create openings for lesser powers to expand their influence in the world-system. Is this what China is currently attempting to do? This paper contributes to this on-going debate by examining China’s arms transfer activities from a historical perspective. Using data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute arms transfer database and the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers database, I argue that the Chinese arms transfer regime has evolved through three phases. In Phase One, China used gifts of arms to compete with the Soviet Union and to expand influence among Third World countries. In Phase Two, China used arms exports mainly to assist national developmental projects. Only evidence in Phase Three supports the emergence of a global strategy that attempts to extend China’s economic, political, and possibly military outreach. This paper suggests that though China has not yet become a contender for world hegemony as Arrighi argues (2007), China has formulated a globally-focused agenda which, in the medium-term, could extend its influence in regions where U.S. domination is relatively weak.


China, hegemonic decline, intrastate dynamics, arms transfer, global agenda

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